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No. 13 Butler gets defensive in win

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette
Butler's MeKayla Furman (22) brings the ball up in the second half against Barton on Wednesday, Feb. 17 at the Power Plant in El Dorado, Kansas. Furman finished with 11 points to help Butler to the win.

EL DORADO—It was the Butler defense who stood tall when it mattered on Wednesday night for the Grizzlies.

Butler overcame a fourth quarter deficit to knock off conference foe, Barton, 61-54 to win their 13th consecutive game. 

“It was an ugly game,” Butler Head Coach Mike Helmer said. “A win in this league is always good, so we’ll take it and move on.”

After Barton powered back to tie it at 15-all with 7:03 remaining in the half, it was Knight who scored back-to-back buckets to give Butler the 19-15 lead and some cushion. 

The Grizzlies led 26-22 at the break when Tamara Nard nailed a 3-pointer with 33 seconds remaining in the half.

Barton pushed and pushed to get back in the game and eventually found themselves in the lead when Marliah Johnson hit a jumper with 9:34 remaining to put Barton up 39-37. Johnson would add two free throws, giving Barton their largest lead of the game at 41-37 with 9:10 remaining. 

Then, the Butler defense took over. 

The defense that came in as, statistically, one of the best defenses in junior college basketball. They flexed their muscles and found their way to force turnovers and defend as tough as they could. 

“People stepped up and made plays when we had the chance,” Helmer said. “That was the difference tonight.”

Riley Hett helped contest a shot. Then, Tamara Nard blocked a bucket by Vanessa Udoah. That led to a backdoor lob layup for Nard, the sophomore to put Butler. Knight would follow it up with a three and the Butler Grizzlies were off and running. 

“We have a deep bench and a lot of girls can play,” sophomore Mekayla Furman said “A lot of girls can start, too. We do whatever the teams needs me to do and stay focused.”

Butler would hold Barton without a bucket for more than six minutes before Queen Ulabo found a layup. By then, Butler’s run had reached 18-4.

“Coach told us to keep pressing and defending,” Furman said. “We had to match their energy.”

A lot of the damage was by Trinity Valley transfer, Mekayla Furman. After missing a three, she was court aware, picking the pocket and going in for the easy layup to put Butler up by nine. 

“She stole the ball from me,” Furman said. “I was mad. I had to get it back.”

Furman finished with 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and three fouls.

“I do whatever coach needs me to do,” Furman said. “I’m going to do it.”

Butler took their largest lead when Butler ran the backdoor lob for Nard, which worked again, leading to an and-one play, giving Butler the 58-47 lead with 2:26 remaining.

“That’s been a play we’ve been running for the last three years,” Helmer said. “It worked well tonight.”

Nard finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.

Knight had a quiet 17 points for the Grizzlies on the night. She was 6 of 9 and had four assists. 

“We need to make plays and be better,” Helmer said. 

The Grizzlies are back on the court as they head to Goodland on Saturday, for a showdown with the West Division leading Mavericks (4-1, 4-1 KJCCC). They’re led by sophomore Lauryn Vieira, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. She's averaging 20.4 points on 50 percent shooting, with 3.4 steals per game.

“You can’t take a night off in this league,” Helmer said. “It’s going to be another tough one.”

Charles Chaney has been the Sports Editor for the Butler County Times-Gazette since Aug. 2019. You can reach him at cchaney@butlercountytimesgazette.com or on Twitter at @ChuckChaneyBCTG.